A 22-year-old woman who raised the initial alarm about a newborn trapped in a sewer pipe in China kept quiet about being his mother even as she watched the sensational two-hour rescue unfold, reports stated on Wednesday.
The woman, whose name was not revealed in state media reports, confessed to police a couple of days later when they asked her to undergo a medical check-up after searching her rented room and finding toys and blood-stained toilet paper, the state-run Zhejiang News website said.
Firefighters were called on Saturday to the residential building in the Pujiang area of the eastern Zhejiang province city of Jinhua to rescue a baby trapped in the L-joint of a sewage pipe just below a squat toilet in one of the building's public restrooms.
Video of the rescue of Baby No 59 — so named because of his incubator number in the hospital — was shown on Chinese news programmes and websites starting late Monday and picked up worldwide, prompting both horror and an outpouring of charity on behalf of the newborn.
The single woman, a tenant in the building, told police she could not afford an abortion and secretly delivered the child on Saturday afternoon in the toilet. She said the newborn slipped into the sewer line and that she alerted her landlord of the trapped baby after she could not pull the child out, Zhejiang News said.
The baby, who weighed 2.8kg (6 pounds, 2.8 ounces), had a low heart rate and some minor abrasions on his head and limbs, but was mostly unhurt, according to Zhejiang Online, the province's official news site. The placenta was still attached.
Police initially said they were treating the case of as possible attempted homicide, but it was not immediately clear whether the mother would face any criminal charges.
In the video, officials were shown removing the pipe from a ceiling that apparently was just below the restroom and then, at the hospital, using pliers and saws to gently pull apart the pipe, which was about 10 centimeters (about 3 inches) in diameter.
Zhejiang News said the mother was present throughout the entire rescue and expressed her concern for the child, thought that didn’t initially rouse suspicion of the police.
News of the baby’s ordeal was met with horror and pity by bloggers on Chinese sites. Most speculated that the child had been dumped by his parents down the toilet. The rescue prompted an outpouring from strangers who came to the hospital with diapers, baby clothes, powdered milk and offers to adopt him.
The landlord of the building told Zhejiang News earlier in the week that there were no signs that the birth took place in the restroom and she had not been aware of any recent pregnancies among her tenants.
The mother told police she cleaned up the scene in the toilet after the delivery and that she managed to hide her pregnancy by wearing loose clothes and tightly wrapping her abdomen, Zhejiang News said.